The ‘More Milk Zuri’ comic book developed by the Centre of Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) is aimed at primary aged children and features Zuri, a cow living in an African village who makes the creamiest milk in all the land. The story follows Zuri on her quest to learn how genetics can help her have daughters that produce enough milk to feed all the children in her village.
The story introduces the concepts of genetic selection and how environment and management also play an important part in livestock productivity. With lots of colourful images and a clever mix of science, storytelling and humour, the comic is proving a hit with primary school children in the UK.
The author of the 20 page comic book, scientific illustrator Eliza Wolfson, was delighted to be involved with the project and worked with CTLGH researchers at the Roslin Institute in the UK and at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya to ensure that the science highlighted in the comic was accurate.
She said: “I love the challenge of distilling information into a graphic that lots of people can understand and to make scientific messages accessible to more people.”
“I have worked in Tanzania in the past and wanted to make a comic that was sympathetic to the traditional African storytelling style. We decided to give the three main characters in the comic African names like ‘Zuri’, which is Swahili for ‘beautiful’, ‘Busara’, which means ‘wise’ and ‘Elewa’, which means ‘understand’.”
– Eliza Wolfson, comic author and illustrator
The idea behind ‘More Milk Zuri’ came from Dr Liam Morrison, a researcher based at the Roslin Institute who secured funding from BBSRC Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) for the project.
He said: “Millions of families living in rural Africa rely on livestock for both their income and food. We wanted to develop a story that highlighted the possibilities of genetics and how CTLGH’s work improving livestock genetics in tropical countries can increase productivity and reduce both poverty and hunger in these fragile communities.”
“I really enjoyed stepping back and thinking about the essence of the work that we do. Looking at the scientific processes and finding ways to communicate things simply was both challenging and very rewarding.”
– Dr Liam Morrison, CTLGH Researcher at the Roslin Institute
Steve Kemp, ILRI’s Livestock Genetics programme leader and Deputy Director of CTLGH said: “This book cleverly introduces the concepts of genetic gains and highlights the value of crossbreeding and breed preservation for each generation.”
He added: “It also showcases the work that CTLGH and its many partners, including the African Dairy Genetics Gains project here at ILRI, are doing to improve the productivity and health of dairy cattle in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Nicola Stock, Public Engagement with Research Manager at the Roslin Institute and Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre (EBSOC) Project Lead, believes that ‘More Milk Zuri’ will be an excellent resource to add to the Centre’s existing engagement activities.
“‘More Milk Zuri’ is an accessible, engaging and fun story, which we’re looking forward to sharing with school groups visiting the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre. It’s a great opportunity to show our local young people that researchers based here in Scotland are doing work to improve the lives of people and animals not just in the UK but across the world.”
CTLGH has recently secured a public engagement grant from the Roslin Institute to develop additional school resources to accompany ‘More Milk Zuri’ and communicate how genetics can be used to improve tropical livestock and the lives of those who tend them.
The comic has also been translated into Swahili – the official language of East Africa – and CTLGH is working to establish networks to disseminate the comic through schools and other networks in Kenya and Tanzania.
You can view and download the full comic here. For more information about the comic and CTLGH’s public engagement plans please contact Maggie Bennett, CTLGH Communications and Knowledge Exchange Officer.